I’m sure most of you are familiar with the proposed bans on the niqab and other Islamic religious clothing in many European countries. The case I’ve been following most closely is in France, where the law is expected to pass soon. It would ban the few thousand women who wear the niqab (face veil) in public from doing so, and if women refuse to comply, they will be fined or be required to attend a “citizenship” class.
These European cases, along with the campaign to halt the building of an Islamic center in downtown Manhattan near Ground Zero, are, to me, illustrations of the ever-growing and irrational Islamophobia in the Western world. Here is an example of the irrationality that surrounds this issue: In an interview with Al Jazeera English, a French parliamentarian claimed that he was made a “victim” by women who choose to wear the niqab because he cannot see their faces.
I recognize, of course, that many Westerners cannot be blamed for their phobic behavior when confronted with the people and symbols of Islam. The portrayal of Muslims in mainstream T.V. news, especially on cable news channels, leaves Americans with an uninformed and fear-based view of Islam—a view that is hard to shake if a person has no access to other information about the religion and its people. Only when the media changes its ways in its coverage of Islam will people realize that these campaigns in Europe and in the U.S. are misguided and are driven by fear, as opposed to true concern.
Al Jazeera English has done some good reports about the proposed niqab ban in France, and here’s the most recent report.
Also, guests on the Diane Rehm Show yesterday discussed this issue. I haven’t listened to the whole piece yet but I will post it here, too.
Please respond with comments if you have any!